An offbeat birthday affirmation to my dad (1/1/12)

What do the following have in common?

  • both major U.S. political parties
  • street sign makers in White County, AR and New Castle County, DE
  • church elders

All of these have a periodic penchant for commissioning people to do things when those particular people apparently shouldn’t be doing them.  In other words, the doers don’t always have the requisite abilities.

We’ve had a few party-sanctioned presidents who haven’t had certain requisite skills (e.g., correctly pronouncing the word “nuclear” and being generally honorable people who don’t talk out of both sides of their mouths).  People entrusted with producing street signs for, e.g., Llama Drive, Kiamensi Road, and Brennan Drive ought to know how to spell (erroneous spellings Lama, Kiamansi, and Brennen appear at the other ends of the roads).

And in the sphere of song leading, I can’t tell you the last time I met with, or heard about, a Church of Christ that was using its options well.  Where they exist, qualified song leaders should be used.  You know — people who actually have the ability to stand in front and lead singing, not hindering by technical incompetence.  College Church, you especially ought to be ashamed of the poor non-use you make of your song leading resources.

It is my anecdotally informed theory that elders and deacons who have charge of those who have charge — in other words, those who select the song leaders — tend to be of a shallow mind when considering such things.  All sorts of guys will lead singing in churches.  Some who are nearly devoid of talent for leading music publicly, but who have “upbeat” personalities, will even find themselves having a virtual monopoly on leading.  These guys may come to believe they are gifted when they really aren’t, and as a result, they don’t end up developing the modest gifts they have.  They stagnate; resultantly, they contribute to the stagnation of the congregation.  Those who select and schedule leaders ought to do better, choosing those who can really do the things they’re chosen to do.  We wouldn’t choose an accountant to pick cotton, or a two-year-old to install a light bulb high atop a ladder, so why do we choose people who can’t keep a beat or match pitch or read rhythms to lead congregational singing?

In contrast:  when my dad was in the role of choosing song leaders, he did an exemplary job of balancing things as he got men involved in public leadership.  At times, it was difficult, because pressures were exerted to have people’s friends (or those who led “fun” songs or even tripe that didn’t deserve to be led at all) lead more than they should have led.  Most often, there were 4 or 5 who were in the Sunday morning rotation, and 4-5 more who led on Sunday evenings or Wednesday nights.  It was pretty clear to all that some were “first-string” and others were not, and I wasn’t always comfortable with the de facto hierarchy, but this generally seemed to work out well, and people were in the appropriate roles.

[Aside:  we could have multiple conversations about Sunday nights … 1) whether putting the “second string” on Sunday night duty further marginalizes Sunday night activities, and yea, 2) whether having Sunday night activities  at all makes any sense in this era or not, but those are discussions for another day.]

[A further aside:  through the years, I’ve been part of 5 churches in which I was in this kind of first-string rotation.  I both appreciated the affirmations and took them seriously.  Further, I believe they were all apt affirmations.  I never would have wanted to have a monopoly, even though I was technically better than anyone else around me, because I was not spiritually better or personally more appealing than the other leaders.  After all, I was just one person who could lead a contingent pretty effectively.  In other words, I was not the best leader for everyone.  I was not to everyone’s taste.  Different leadership styles can keep things from monotony, and I was glad for the variety at West Side, Ridgewood, St. Elmo, Cedars, and Lawson Road.]

Back to my dad.  Not all of his opinions are infallible, and I do think he allowed taste to influence his leadership of the leaders, to an extent . . . but he did know an effective, worthy song/worship/devotional leader when he saw one.  When he was a deacon and elder in charge of those in charge, Dad always did a great job of being as inclusive as possible, while serving the higher ideals of spiritual leadership for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Dad has always been a thoughtful man who saw the best possibilities in people.

Happy birthday, Dad.  The anniversary of your birth is one of a kind, and so are you.


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